How to Start a Garden
When learning , the most important thing to remember is the soil. The conditions of your garden soil will often determine the success, or lack thereof, of your gardening adventures!
Because most yards are not equipped with the healthiest, most fertile soil, this probably means you’re going to have to build up the area a bit before you do any planting.
However, before we go diving into with healthy soil, let’s select a location for your garden.
How to Start a Garden: Where’s the sun?
All the information pertaining to planting on this site discusses location, location,
location, because this is often where the success or failure of your
I’m serious, don’t underestimate this! Place
your garden in the wrong location (such as one that is in “part-sun”)
and you will be disappointed by the results.
This is a vegetable garden, so therefore you will need a location that is in full sun! It doesn’t matter if this is a raised bed garden, or a standard garden plot, select a spot that receives AT LEAST 6 hours of full sun each and every day.
This raised bed was built in a location that receives FULL SUN and it will be a perfect place to start a garden.
Full sun is key….
Trust me on this….
Take a look at the location you are considering, and make sure that the area
receives the “full sun” measure of success. If you want to be sure, get a sun calculator to measure this.
Ok, now onto the soil…
How to Start a Garden: Get your hands dirty!
You’re going to need good, healthy, fertile, well-drained soil in order to grow the most healthy, vibrant vegetable plants possible.
How do you do this?
There are a couple of options:
- You could have several cubic yards of good, quality topsoil
delivered to your home, and have this distributed in your garden.
This is probably the best way to do it, although depending on where your garden is located, you’re probably looking at having the soil “dumped” somewhere on your property, and then you moving it, one wheelbarrow at a time, to it’s new location.
Now, I’m not saying this is a bad option, but it is labor intensive. Take this into consideration before you do it.
- Another option is to buy several bags of soil from your local garden center and spread it in the area you intend to plant.
Depending on how much you purchase, this option could be more expensive, however it may be easier to manage. Those bags are usually not terribly heavy and can be manipulated by most people.
Once you’ve added the top soil, you should follow steps #4 and #5 on this page. In addition to adding the compost, I would recommend adding some sphagnum peat moss (which can be purchased at most garden centers) to help make the soil
more porous and easy for the roots to grow. Vegetable gardens can be
less resistant to the effects of compacted soil than most perennials.
Make sure you mix, or till, all of those ingredients together. Not only does this properly
distribute all of the ingredients, but it makes the soil very light and
easy to work with, and it creates a perfect growing environment for new
How to Start a Garden: Where do I put these plants?
Bottom line: put them where you want!
Some people like perfectly lined up rows of veggies,
- one row of carrots
- one row of tomatoes
- one row of lettuce
- etc etc etc
but I prefer the “hodge podge” look myself!
The hodge podge look is not highly scientific, and in fact pretty much involves throwing the plants anywhere in the garden you want them.
If you’d like to put a bit more thought into it, take a peek at how to lay out a garden for some ideas and tips that are a bit more well-thought out.
How to Start a Garden: Plant the plants!
Assuming that you have all of your plants purchased from a local garden center, you will be ready to place them in the ground. You can certainly purchase seeds and/or plants online, however if you’re new to vegetable gardening, I’d recommend taking the easy route of buying plants locally. They are already established, and are relatively cheap.
Once you are more familiar with the whole gardening routine, you may
grow plants from seed and start several at different time intervals. For
example, you would start one row of lettuce one week, one row the next,
and one row the next. This would ensure that your “harvest” is
somewhat spaced out and you would be on a continual lettuce eating
frenzy for several weeks.
Again, I wouldn’t worry about that
if your brand new to this. Take your time, get acquainted with the
process, and then start jazzing it up next year.
Follow step #8 on this page
to place your veggies in the ground. If you are buying your plants
early in the season, you should not have trouble with any being “root
bound” however, the pictures on that page will help you determine
whether or not that is the case.
Be sure to give your plants the amount of space that is specified on their growing tag. While those babies are tiny now, they will grow quickly and will spread significantly! If you don’t give them the space they need, they will not grow to their full potential.
How to Start a Garden: Do I need to fence in the area?
It definitely depends on what you’re planting!
Most of the plants I
discussed using in my “hodge podge” design above do not need protection from predators…..EXCEPT….peppers (rabbits seem to like them) and pumpkins (once they turn orange). My pumpkins were FINE FINE FINE, until I noticed that they were turning a brilliant orange, and I left them on the vine that night. Next morning I found holes in ALL of them with the inards taken out.
Oooooo….was I mad!
But cut those same pumpkins off the vine and place them on your front porch? They’re safe as can be. Go figure!
Oh, and corn is usually safe until the ears start showing, then the squirrels come. I don’t know how to stop squirrels since they can climb anything…scarecrows do work, or bright, shiny, dangling objects that chase them away. This predator is one I battle on a regular basis, and I haven’t figured out how best to deal with them.
Berries, such as raspberries and blackberries, are able to survive in the wild,
and therefore do not need protection, however you will have a hard time growing strawberries without some type
of netting draped over the bed. I’ve got a specific method for planting strawberries that seems to work well.
For more information on the nuances of different fruits and veggies, and whether or not they need protection from predators, see the planting guide available on this site.
How to Start a Garden: Should you mulch it?
I find that it’s easier for me to take care of my garden on a regular
basis if I place a small amount of mulch around the plants. I don’t use anything
heavy or inorganic, and usually stick to a light sprinkling of grass
clippings. I do this to minimize the amount of weeds that grow, and
also to make it easier to walk through – muddy shoes are no fun in the
Weeds are a gardeners nightmare! And they can be particularly challenging to deal with considering the fact that you CANNOT use a pesticide in the garden. That substance can hurt or destroy precious plants, and can also leak into the soil, getting to the roots of the vegetable plants, who then “drink it in”. Which would mean you’re essentially putting poison right inside your home grown veggies.
Not the goal you had intended when planting a garden, I would imagine.
So, you will be forced to look at some type of organic weed control in order to manage the weeds in the garden. You will also need to till the garden soil on a regular basis to ensure that the weeds don’t take over.
Remember, the weeds will grow MUCH faster than your vegetable plants, and keeping the weeds at bay will comprise much of your work in the early weeks of tending to your garden.
The garden hoe is a wonderful garden tool to help get ride of the weeds. It is best used to hack away the growing points of the weeds at least once every couple of weeks.
How to Start a Garden: Should you fertilize?
This is really a matter of personal choice.
I do not feel the need to apply any fertilizer during the growing season, although I know that most gardeners do. I personally don’t want any substance on my
plants or vegetables even if it is reportedly harmless.
My method for
fertilizing the garden comes in the form of compost that I add at the beginning of the season. Another alternative that I’ved tried is burying the compost material
(before it is composted – like the raw veggie trimmings, coffee grinds,
tea bags, etc) directly in the soil several weeks before the planting
season begins. The compost enriches the soil and provides a delicious
and nutritious bed for the garden plants!
How to Start a Garden: Final thoughts…
Of course watering your plants will be critical to their success and longevity. Follow this link to read more about this activity and the best methods for success.
Want to know what readers have to say? Check out the gardening techniques submitted by followers of this site…lots of good ideas found here!
And while you’re there, share your own tips! Almost everyone knows something special about working in the garden, and we’d love to hear your own special tip!
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